Youtube Screen Capture/Birdsbesafe
The Birdsbesafe collar was used in a recent study on cats' predation of wildlife.
Birds in flight often arrange themselves in aerodynamically optimum positions, according to a new paper in thejournal Nature
that helps to explain how birds fly in such impressive formations. Lead researcher Steven Portugal and his colleagues focused their study on northern bald ibises, but many bird species also exhibit the amazing flight behavior. Portugal, a University of London Royal Veterinary College researcher, told Discovery News that birds could be using three things to achieve their flying precision: "(1) vision – watching the bird in flight to get all the information they need, (2) feathers – sensing the changes in pressure, wind etc. through their flight feathers, and (3) positive feedback – i.e. they just fly around and when it feels easier/better they stay in that position."
The researchers determined that birds try to find "good air," meaning airflows (not just wind, but even the air created by other flapping wings) that minimize their energy expenditure and help them to get where they plan to go. Conversely, birds avoid regions of "bad air" that could work against them.
Many birds fly in distinctive V-formations. Portugal said, "The intricate mechanisms involved in V formation flight indicate remarkable awareness and ability of birds to respond to the wing path of nearby flock-mates. Birds in V formation seem to have developed complex phasing strategies to cope with the dynamic wakes (turbulent air) produced by flapping wings."
H.K. Job, Wikimedia Commons
Military planes sometimes fly in what is known as an "echelon formation," which mirrors nearly the exact same flight formation of many birds. This particular bird version is a variation of the "V," only with a rounded edge.
The U.S. Navy's famous flight demonstration squadron The Blue Angels often flies in a trademark "diamond formation" once popularized by fighter-bomber pilots. In it, the pilots maintain an 18-inch wing tip to canopy separation. Birds can fly even more tightly together.
The term "murmuration" refers to a flock of starlings. These birds can create dramatic patterns in the sky, such as this one over marshlands near Tønder, Denmark. Other small birds, such as sandpipers, may also create what look to be dazzling aerial ballets in the sky as they fly en masse.
Rupert Ganzer, Flicker
Even birds flying very close to land can do so in remarkable unison. Here, a formation was photographed as the birds flew over the beach at Camperduin in the Netherlands.
Daniel Jolivet, Flickr
The classic "V" formation has all sorts of variations. In this case, three separate -- yet united -- groups create an arrow-like effect in the sky.
Mark Kent, Flickr
Alfred Hitchcock's classic horror film "The Birds" included many scenes where numerous birds blanketed the sky. Up close, these starlings look small and harmless but, as a huge murmuration, their power becomes evident.
From the earliest planes to those in design today, aircraft have been modeled after birds. It's no wonder. Every inch of this sleek northern bald ibis, snapped while flying over Tuscany, adds to the bird's flying prowess. Its 53-inch wingspan and powerful, synchronized wing beats must have captivated people in the ancient world too, since ancient Egyptians and other early cultures featured the birds prominently in their artwork and legends.
Cat owners whose feline friends venture outdoors know the grim feeling they experience when little Sylvester proudly presents a bird it's just killed. Never a fun moment, if you're a fan of birds.
A recent study, though, may offer hope for fewer queasy moments for such owners. Catherine Hall, a Murdoch University School of Veterinary and Life Sciences PhD student, led a study that examined the possibility that placing colorful collar covers on cats might help alert wildlife to their presence.
For the study, Hall and her team used three different collar cover colors (rainbow, red, and yellow) from the company Birdsbesafe. The idea behind the collars is that animals with good color vision -- such as birds, reptiles and amphibians -- will catch sight of the encroaching colors and have a chance to escape capture.
With help from owners, who reported on the types of prey their pets killed, the research team studied 114 pet cats, across two years' worth of their outdoor hunting in suburban Australia. The scientists looked at all three collar colors and found a 54% overall reduction in the successful capture of prey, with rainbow and red being the most effective warning colors.
Mammals with less adept color vision, such as rats and mice, did not experience the same life-saving heads-up, as the team found no decrease in their successful predation by the collared cats.
The collars are "best used by owners whose cats catch a lot of birds and lizards and either don't catch a lot of mice and rats, or their owners don't care whether they catch mice and rats," Hall said, in a post on Phys Org.
It seems the cats did not mind the collars too much. The team found 79% of the cats' owners reported their pets did not exhibit any problems wearing them, while another 17% said their felines adjusted to the collar within two days.